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Digital TV Antenna

Using the best TV antenna for your needs to get free HDTV over the air is one of the best things you can do to replace cable TV as a cord cutter. But what happens when you plug your antenna in and find nothing but static, shaky picture, or low-quality audio? Don't freak out just yet, because the problem can be easy to fix. Here's how to get clear TV antenna reception in your home.

How to Get Clear TV Antenna Reception: 3 Common Problems

When you're not getting the reception you should be, you're going to want to ask yourself a few simple questions. A lot of things can cause poor reception, from settings on your TV to the position of the antenna. Usually, one of three things is happening: you forgot to scan for channels, your antenna is poorly positioned, or you just don't have the right antenna. Thankfully, most of these problems are easy to fix. We have the solutions below, including a few key tips on antenna positioning.

Did You Scan for Channels?

Setting up your antenna is incredibly easy, but it's not quite as easy as just plugging the antenna in and forgetting it. There's one more step between connecting your antenna and watching free TV, and that's scanning for channels.

Scanning for channels is done through your TV's menu system, so it will be a bit different depending on what type of TV you have. Use your TV remote and look through the menu for a “scan” feature. Usually, you'll see a progress bar and a channel count as the scan is performed.

You can check your TV's user guide for more information, but it's usually not too hard to track down the scanning feature.

Where Is Your Antenna?: Some Antenna Positioning Tips

Depending on where your antenna is, you may see a difference in the number and quality of channels you pick up. A lot goes into this equation: check out this infographic to see the major factors. Here are some key tips for getting clear TV antenna reception:

  • Get some altitude! For indoor antennas, place them high on the walls or windows. For outdoor antennas, try the roof – the peak is better than the side.
  • Aim for the signal! For directional antennas, of course, this is a must. But even omnidirectional antennas, like common indoor antennas, may benefit if you pay attention to where the nearest TV stations are. Maybe you can sneak the antenna around a corner to get it closer to the signal source.
  • Look for obstructions! Sometimes, this may be beyond your power – if you're on the first floor in New York City, there's not much you can do. But for smaller obstructions – from the neighbor's house blocking your outdoor antenna to your own fridge boxing out your indoor antenna – a little repositioning could help.
  • Play the warmer/colder game. It's not all about calculating the right spot – sometimes you just need a little hands-on experimenting. After scanning for channels, try moving the antenna around a bit while watching the screen (or have a friend or family member watch if you can't see from your position). Try to find a spot where the picture is clearest for the most possible channels. Because some factors are hard to detect and predict (something metal in your wall that you can't see, for instance), this simple solution is sometimes the best way to find the right place for your antenna.

Do You Have the Right Antenna?

Did you purchase a strong enough antenna? If not, consider upgrading or investing in a TV antenna amplifier. Everything you need to know is in our handy guide.

Still Having Trouble?

If nothing else helps, you may be one of the unlucky few who can't benefit from a TV antenna. Check with your antenna's manufacturer to see if you're eligible for a refund, and consider other methods for watching live TV without cable.

If you can't use an antenna, you can still get local channels. You'll want to turn to a skinny bundle. While skinny bundles aren't free, they do offer live TV and (in some regions) live local feeds of major networks like ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC.

10 thoughts on “How to Get Clear TV Antenna Reception: Essential Tips and Troubleshooting Techniques

  1. Hugh G Rection says:

    Buy an antenna? ROTFLMAO! My parents 80’s antenna works.

  2. Kathy says:

    I’m searching for a method to use my TV while boondocking. I don’t have a “hot spot” with my phone server ” Straight Talk” unless I pay extra. I understand using phones hot spot while increase your bill even if you have “unlimited” usage !? Any Ideas on using tv with boondocking?

    1. Stephen Lovely says:

      Hi Kathy, thanks for reading! I think streaming would be tough in your situation, but a strong antenna might help you get reception at your less remote stops.

  3. Colleen Merena says:

    It worked now it doesn’t

  4. Anonymous says:

    How on earth do I fix this to my TV. There is nowhere to screw anything on and I’ve looked everywhere?????

    1. Stephen Lovely says:

      You should have a coaxial jack on the back of your TV. It’ll stick out a bit and have threads on it like a screw. If you also have cable or satellite, you may already have a cable using that spot

  5. Bill says:

    Finding the perfect spot for your indoor antenna can be very touchy. I’m not allowed any outdoor antennas so have to make the best with an indoor one and at times I’ll lose the picture yet if I move it just an inch the sound and picture snap in perfect. It may be fine for days and suddenly bam, the picture & sound go out yet another inch movement and it’s back again. I’m sure the signal strength is less than nominal but that’s just how touchy the digital tv signals are unless you are close to the broadcast station and have a strong signal from them.

  6. Chad says:

    So a phone hot spot with unlimited data will still not provide enough “unlimited” data to serve for connection-free streaming, right? So is the best bet after cutting the cord to have an internet account to have good streaming? What is the minimum system speed necessary for good streaming?

    1. Stephen Lovely says:

      Using a hotspot might work, though it might not be your most reliable option. Unlimited data would certainly be enough, but your bandwidth might be the issue. It’s sort of like water going through a pipe: you might have unlimited water (data), but how fast you can get it into a cup depends on your pipes and your sink. When you’re streaming, you’ll need to have a connection with enough bandwidth — speed, basically — to get the next bit of your movie or TV show ready so that your stream doesn’t freeze up and have to wait for more information. Generally, you can get away with pretty low speeds for on-demand content like Netflix (I think they claim 3 Mbps will work, but you’ll probably want something like 10 Mbps minimum). Live content and fancy 4K UHD content will take more — 25 Mbps is probably your minimum there, and you’d be even better off with 50 Mbps or more. Hope this helps!

  7. Lori Michalowski says:

    I live in an apartment complex and I have moved the antenna all over the place and still only get four random, bazar channels. there is a tree right outside the windows, we are in the middle of our building with another building across from me. Will a long range antenna and booster help get better channels?

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